What We're Watching: George Floyd murder trial gets underway, Myanmar military's brutal crackdown, terror siege in Mozambique

What We're Watching: George Floyd murder trial gets underway, Myanmar military's brutal crackdown, terror siege in Mozambique

George Floyd murder trial: Ten months after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died under the knee of a white police officer on a Minneapolis street corner, the murder trial of that officer, Derek Chauvin, has finally kicked off . Chauvin is facing three charges including second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter. The footage of Chauvin pressing his knee against Floyd's neck — and Floyd's cry of "I can't breathe" — galvanized anti-racism protests, some of which turned violent, across the United States last summer. And around the world, people in countries as varied as the Netherlands, Israel, Australia, Japan, France, Portugal, and Brazil also rose up to confront racial injustice within their own societies. Within the US, Floyd's killing has sparked a new movement pushing for more police accountability, as well as broader criminal justice reform. But it also inflamed political tensions, with many right-leaning Americans pushing back, contending that police are forced to confront dangerous situations and should be given more leeway to conduct their duties in defense of public order. Whatever happens in the Floyd trial, which is likely to take months, the outcome will surely inflame tensions and create a new wave of unrest in a very divided US — and perhaps even abroad.


Military crackdown intensifies in Myanmar: As pro-democracy protesters show no signs of backing down, Myanmar's generals have struck back with lethal force to disperse the crowds. Over the weekend the military junta launched airstrikes on ethnic groups near the Thai border, leading to 100 deaths on Saturday alone, the highest daily toll since the crisis began nine weeks ago. The military cracked down again the following day, opening fire at a funeral procession outside Yangon for a 20-year-old killed in clashes the previous day. The death toll since the military seized power on February 1 now stands at 459, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, though the true toll is thought to be higher. The Biden administration, meanwhile, says it is working on a "plan" to address the situation as fears of a possible civil war in Myanmar grow. But details are scarce, and so far, the economic sanctions that Washington has imposed on the junta appear to have had little effect.

Mozambique insurgency escalates: Dozens of people, including at least seven foreigners, were killed over the weekend when local jihadists laid siege to a town in northern Mozambique that serves as the base for a massive offshore natural gas development. For more than three years now, fighters belonging to the "Al-Shabaab" militant group have been waging a brutal insurgency in the surrounding Cabo Delgado province that has killed thousands and displaced close to 700,000 people. Although the fighters claim loose ties to the Islamic State — and have adopted familiar ISIS tactics of beheadings, kidnappings, and ruthless destruction of schools and hospitals — domestic economic grievances appear to play a big role: Cabo Delgado is one of the poorest regions of Mozambique, and many locals don't feel they are set to benefit from the recent discovery of massive natural gas reserves there. Given the natural gas stakes, the area is crawling with foreign mercenary groups hired to protect energy company workers. The US recently announced that its special forces would work with Mozambican troops to quash the insurgency. Given this weekend's brazen attack, the militants don't appear to be overly concerned about Uncle Sam just yet.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

The fight between EU institutions and Poland and Hungary has escalated.

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Ian Bremmer is joined on GZERO World by artificial intelligence scientists Kai-fu Lee, who recently wrote about how AI will change the world over the next two decades, precisely to talk about AI's future. After this week's Facebook debacle, how can we align interest to regulate AI-driven algorithms? Will AI steal all our jobs? And what should we do to learn from AI to improve our lives before it gets smarter than us?

Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

US elections officials have always persuaded losing candidates that they've, ahem, lost. Now it's worse because there's a new paradigm, according to former DHS and Election Assistance Commission official Matt Masterson, policy fellow with the Stanford Internet Observatory. Candidates that won't accept defeat regardless of the margin or evidence of fraud, he says, are undermining trust in the system — and election officials are ill-equipped to deal with this problem.

Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Who's most responsible for spreading misinformation online? For Ginny Badanes, senior director for Democracy Forward at Microsoft, the problem starts with those who create it, yet ultimately governments, companies and individuals all share the burden. And she's more interested in what we can do to respond.

Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

In the days ahead, more details will come to light about why a deadly cache of materials was haphazardly stashed at a port warehouse, and why Lebanon's government failed to secure the site. So, what comes next for crisis-ridden Lebanon?

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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